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III-B. POSITION INFANTRY AND THE BASE OF FIRE

III-B. POSITION INFANTRY AND THE BASE OF FIRE

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fire. Also, the British advocated firing artillery and rifle fire over the heads of friendly

infantry when necessary. Henderson summarized the combined arms concept, stating

“long-rangeriflefireisanimportantauxiliarytotheartilleryincoveringtheadvanceof

attackinginfantry.”[71]

During the Manchurian conflict, base of fire techniques proved critical in providing

coveringfireforassaultsagainstpreparedpositions.Forexample,intheengagementsto

penetratethefortificationssurroundingLiaoyangtheJapaneseencounteredheavyartillery

and rifle fire from the Russian defenders. Japanese tactics were adjusted accordingly.

During their (31 August, 1904) attack on the Liaoyang fords, the Japanese commander

positionedanentireinfantrybattaliononanelevatedridgelinetoprovidecoveringfirefor

the maneuver element’s assault. This battalion served as a rudimentary base of fire.

Additionally,apreparatoryartillerybarrageofshrapnelandhighexplosiveordnancewas

delivered prior to the commencement of the attack to support the infantry assault.[72]

Thus,asearlyasLiaoyangtheJapaneseshowedapropensitytoemployembryonicbaseof

fireandcombinedarmstechniques.

Likewise,atanengagementnearHill774(12October1904)examplesofrudimentary

fireandmaneuverandbaseoffiretechniquesweredisplayedtoovercomethedensityof

enemy rifle fire. Under the cover of a night advance, Japanese infantry approached to

within forty yards of the enemy line. Using whistle commands to control the maneuver,

theJapaneseskirmishlinefelltothepronepositionsandopenedahighrateoffire.Under

thecoverofthisfire,onesectionfromtherearsupportswasdirectedtoassaulttheflanks

oftheposition.AlthoughtheJapanesesufferedahighrateofcasualties,thepositionwas

taken.[73]

Though the Russians were slow to adapt to modern combat, fledgling small-unit fire

andmaneuver tactics gradually evolved in reaction to intense enemy firepower and the

rolling terrain in Manchuria. For example, one Russian officer documented a

recommended method for an infantry section (approximately thirty men) to provide

coveringfireforthemovementsoftwoothersections.Onesectionprovidedcoveringfire

while the other two sections maneuvered through an exposed area.[74] This technique

demonstrated the increased importance of suppression fire to protect the movement of

troopsinopenterrain.ObserversalsoreportedthattheRussiansemployedlong-rangerifle

fire to support infantry attacks. However, the reports claimed that this fire was largely

ineffective due to poor visibility at extended distances. One observer’s report related an

occasioninwhichRussiansoldiersfiredblindlyintoageneralarea(withnoactualtargets



insight)merelytosupportthefriendlyattacker’smorale.[75]

The Japanese army’s increased reliance on machineguns to provide covering fire for

infantry assaults was another indicator of tactical evolution. The mass fire of machine

guns was essential in supplementing the suppression fire provided by position infantry

(actingasarudimentarybaseoffire).TheevolutionofJapanesemachineguntechniques

showedthearmy’spropensitytoutilizeorganicfirepowertosupportmaneuver.

At the outbreak of the war, the Japanese army was not equipped with machineguns.

However,theyappearedshortlyaftertheirentryintothewar.Bywar’send,eachcavalry

brigadewasissuedsixmachineguns,andeachinfantryregimenthadthree,witheffortsin

placetoincreasethisamounttosix.Initially,theJapaneseemployedthegunsmainlyfor

defense, targeting ranges of 600-800 meters. Later in the war, the Japanese began to

employmachinegunsoffensively.TheJapaneseobservedthatthehighrateofmachinegun

fireeffectivelysuppressedRussianinfantryfire.Ontheoffensive,machinegunsadvanced

with the forward units to support the infantry advance. Their targets were usually the

enemy’s infantry lines. The Japanese displayed advanced combined arms tactics for the

timesbydirectingmachinegunfireovertheheadsoffriendlytroopswhennecessary.This

fire was continued until friendly troops reached within thirty meters of the enemy lines.

[76]

At close range, the infantry was eventually be expected to carry the attack with

minimal artillery supporting fire. In 1898 (prior to the Boer and Russo-Japanese Wars),

British and French officers still advocated sending guns forward on the flanks of the

infantry attack to provide direct-fire support to the final infantry charge. Later, military

officers prescribed firing while in motion (or marching fire) as a counter-measure.

Specifically,theU.S.armyhadfavorableexperienceswiththeemploymentofmarching

fire during the Spanish-American War (1898). Officers reported that infantrymen, firing

whileadvancing,wereabletolaydownenoughorganicfiretosuppressenemytroopsin

theirdefenses.However,subsequenttwentieth-centuryconflictswouldprovethismethod

untenable.[77] Unfortunately, the institutional utilization of base of fire techniques to

facilitateclose-infiresupportwasnotyetfullyconceptualized.[78]Nevertheless,abaseof

firesupplementedwithmassmachinegunfirewouldberequiredtocoverthegapincloseinsuppressivefiresoncetheartillerywasshifted.

PriortoWorldWarI,fledglingmethodsofmachinegunsupportemergedinanattempt

tocoverthegapbetweenthecessationofartillerycoverandthefinalinfantrycharge.In

German doctrine, machineguns were used to lay accurate enfilade fire on the objective



aftertheartillerycoverwasshifted,“justwhenthecrisisinthefirefightoccurred.”(As

previouslystated,theJapanesecoveredtheirinfantryadvancestowithinthirtymetersof

theobjectiveduringtheManchuriancampaign).Ultimately,itwouldtakethebattlefields

oftheGreatWartosettlethedebateandpromptofficerstoincreasethefireoftheinfantry

maneuver element itself with man-portable light machineguns and other weapons.[79]

[80]

However, consideration was given to the topic of close-in (organic) infantry fire

support to cover maneuver in post Russo-Japanese War doctrine. The solution to

suppressingenemydefensivefirestocovertheclose-inmaneuverofassaulttroopswould

eventuallybeaddressedbythedevelopmentoffireandmaneuverandstormtrooptactics

duringWorldWarI.Althoughnotadvancedtothislevel,BritishandAmericanpre-World

WarIdoctrineshadadvancedtothepointwheretheyrecommendedtheemploymentof

direct-fire infantry weapons to assist the infantry advance. Though the term base of fire

wasnotyetused,thistechniquemarkstheinitialstagesoffireandmaneuverinwritten

doctrine. Thus, the employment of positioninfantry was clearly a precursor to the later

developmentoffireandmaneuvertactics.

AmericanFieldServiceRegulations,1913containedsimilarusageofbaseoffireand

combined arms techniques.[81] These methods were being devised to overcome the

lethality of modern firepower. To cover the skirmish line’s advance, U.S. doctrine

advocated maintaining a detachment of infantry firing from position to work in

conjunctionwithsupportingartillery.Theregulationsdirectedthat,“Whentheinfantryis

ready to advance a powerful fire is concentrated upon the point of attack by all the

availableartilleryandpositioninfantryinrange…”[82]

Additionally, the American FSR,1913 encouraged the cooperation of the supporting

arms and maneuver element within the various stages of the attack. For example, they

specifiedthatoncetheadvancinginfantrycamewithintheeffectiverangeoftheenemy

rifle fire, the supporting fire (from the artillery and position infantry) must assist the

skirmish line in achieving a superiority of fire for the final advance. During the final

advance(asstatedabove),theskirmishlinewasdirectedtoadvancebyaseriesofrushes,

maximizingtheuseofcover,toavoidheavycasualties.Therushesweretobeexecutedby

“partsofthelinevaryingfrombattalionstoindividuals,accordingtotheintensityofthe

enemy’sfire.”[83]

In the Decisive Action stage of the attack, the FSR, 1913 promoted a rudimentary

system of fire and maneuver tactics. Position infantry detachments were directed to



provideabaseoffire.[84] (Supporting artillery fire was also directed to supplement the

fire of the position infantry). The FSR, 1913 even directed that the reserve, normally

taskedwithfollowingclosebehindtheskirmishline,should“supporttheattackinglineby

firingfromelevatedpositionsintherear”asthemaneuverelementadvanced.Thissection

of the 1913 regulations seems to have incorporated the lessons of the Boer and RussoJapaneseWars.[85]

However, organic firepower could not in itself provide enough firepower to support

infantry assaults. Supporting arms fire would be necessary to carry the infantry attack

forward. Thus, the Russo-Japanese War also demonstrated the necessity of combined

arms, specifically infantry-artillery coordination, in modern warfare. Additionally,

indirect-fire artillery methods became necessary to increase the survivability of the

batteries. The transition from direct to indirect artillery fire further complicated the

coordinationofsupportingfires.Nevertheless,precisecoordinationofartilleryfireswith

infantrymaneuverwasnecessarytoovercomethelethalityofthedefender’sfirepower.



III-C.INDIRECT-FIREARTILLERY&COMBINEDARMS

ThedoctrineofWesternarmiesincorporatedanimpressiveamountofinformationfrom

their observations of modern conflicts, especially the Anglo-Boer and Russo-Japanese

Wars. Despite some institutional resistance to change, most military doctrines addressed

the lethality of modern firepower. Several hard-learned lessons of recent conflicts were

apparent in early twentieth century military publications. Specifically, the increased

necessityofindirectartilleryfireandservicearmcooperationwasreadilyevident.

Latenineteenth-earlytwentiethcenturyartillerydoctrine,basedonlessonsoriginating

asearlyastheFranco-PrussianWar,professedtheemploymentofmassedartilleryfireto

decisively influence the battle, and counter-battery fire to neutralize enemy guns before

the infantry battle commenced. Post Franco-Prussian War technological improvements

(such as quick-firing artillery and smokeless powder), and the lessons of the Boer and

Russo-Japanese Wars, prompted further refinement of this fundamental doctrine. The

artillerypiecenowhadalongerrangethanitspredecessorsandwasthereforemorelethal

totheopposinginfantry.Artillerypiecesnowfiredshrapnelroundsover2,000meters.At

thisrange,theartillerywasoutsidetherangeoftheinfantry’ssmallarmsrange.Therefore,

neutralizing enemy artillery prior to advancing became even more critical to the attack.

[86]

French artillery doctrine of this period was based on direct-fire support of advancing

infantry.Thiswasespeciallytrueafterthedevelopmentofthemodel1897French75mm

field gun. Artillery provided supporting fire by advancing with the infantry in mutually

supporting gun sections. The field guns advanced from 1,500 meters by displacing two

piecesforwardwhiletwoothersmaintainedsuppressivefire.Theartilleryadvancehalted

priorto600metersfromtheenemyandmaintainedahighrateofconcentrated,butnot

particularly accurate, direct-fire (rafale) while the infantry made their final charge. The

purpose of the rafale was to neutralize or, if lucky, destroy enemy targets using mass

direct-fire to protect the infantry advance. Ideally, artillery sections would find suitable

terrainatmediumrange(1,000meters)toprovidedirect-firesupporttotheinfantryattack.

Thus,themaingoaloftherafalewastodemoralizethetargetwithahigh-volumeoffire,

rather than destroy him with accurate fire.[87] French doctrine professed that the

simplicity of direct-fire methods, based on mass fire would promote quick, aggressive

attacks. The sophistication required to conduct indirect supporting fires, combined with

the poor reliability of communications equipment, was viewed as a drain on the

aggressivenessoftheassault.[88]



However, in the early twentieth century, the influence of the Russo-Japanese War

causedashiftinartillerydoctrine.Inanefforttoincreasetheartillery’ssurvivabilityon

the modern battlefield, indirect-fire techniques began to gain support. (By 1910, French

artilleryregulationsreferredtothepracticeofdirect-fireasthe“exceptionalcase,”though

itwascontinuedincommonpractice).[89]ThoughtheRusso-JapaneseWarhadillustrated

the ascendancy of indirect artillery fire, other methods persisted in both doctrine and

practice. For example, German 1906 doctrine still listed three viable artillery firing

positions—unmasked(direct-fire),semi-masked,andmasked(indirect-fire).[90](However,

German doctrine did recommend masked positions (i.e. indirect-fires) over unmasked

positionsduetotheeffectsofhostilefire).[91]

Pre Russo-Japanese War Russian training and doctrine did not espouse the use of

indirectartilleryfire.[92]Nevertheless,thewarsawthetransitionfromartillerydirect-fire

to indirect-fire. (Though artillerymen had previously theorized on this eventuality, the

Russo-Japanese War confirmed the theories). Unexpectedly, counter-battery fire was no

longerthemainthreattoartillerypositions.ThemajorityofRussianbatterieslostinbattle

were overrun by Japanese infantry, not targeted by enemy artillery. The lessons of the

Franco-PrussianandBoerconflictswereoverturned—infantry,notartillerywasnowthe

main threat to forward deployed batteries. Russian batteries in the open were routinely

destroyed by massed Japanese rifle and artillery fire. Placing batteries on exposed high

ground was no longer practicable. To increase their survivability, artillery pieces were

increasingly deployed in masked terrain. These measures necessitated the Japanese

practice of employing observers to control the fires of the supporting artillery and

quickenedtheconversiontoindirectsupportingarmsfire.[93]

Thus,theeventsoftheRusso-JapaneseWarhadunderscoredamajortacticalindicator

— the need to complete the transition to indirect-fire artillery support. Specifically, the

Battle of Telissu (14 June 1904) decisively demonstrated the importance of indirect

firepowerinmodernwarfare.TheRussianarmy’strenchlineatTelissustretchedforover

eight miles. The Russians, still not exploiting the advantages of low troop densities,

packedtheirdefendersshoulder-to-shoulderinthetrenchlines.AlthoughtheRussianFirst

Corpscommander(LieutenantGeneralStakelberg)directedthegunstofirefromcovered

positions,hisordersweredisobeyed.Russianartillerydeployedintheopen,planningto

support the defense with direct-fire even though their defensive line was knowingly

selectedwithpoorfieldsoffire.Thepre-eminenceofindirect-fireartillerysoonbecame

readilyapparent.[94]



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III-B. POSITION INFANTRY AND THE BASE OF FIRE

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